Concierge medicine, or retainer medicine, has traditionally had one basic premise—avoid waiting rooms, if you’re willing to pay extra. The concept was revolutionary back in 1996 when Dr. Howard Maron and Scott Hall began charging their clients in the Pacific Northwest an annual retainer for their services. In exchange for the retainer, they would provide enhanced care, including a commitment to limit patient loads to ensure adequate time and availability for each patient. The model quickly exploded in popularity among America’s upper class.
Twenty years later, the concierge model is becoming even more prominent around the nation as a means of improving population health. According to Medical Economics, the model is gaining popularity because an increasing percentage of doctors feel overextended and are spending a significant portion of their working day on non-clinical paperwork. Concierge practice has the potential to relieve some of the financial pressures and administrative burdens that come with the fee-for-service environment.
Though it certainly has its critics due to its inherent lack of accessibility to lower income populations, the concierge medicine model could potentially offer solutions to our over-burdened healthcare system. Improved quality of care is a prime example. With fewer patients, physicians are able to see them more frequently, keep better track of medical records, and stay on top of changes in their health. This level of personal attention is unmatched within traditional healthcare models. It means better two-way communication, and in turn, less wasted time.
In addition, concierge medicine is proven to yield higher patient satisfaction. At a traditional primary care doctor’s office, patients can spend anywhere from 30-90 minutes waiting. But with concierge medicine, everything moves more efficiently because physicians are caring for a smaller number of patients. In fact, according to a survey released by Concierge Choice Physicians, 98 percent of patients stated that they are satisfied with the amount of patient-doctor communication that occurs under concierge care.
What’s more, it could actually reduce healthcare spending in the long run. That’s because a concierge doctor typically has more time to work on preventative care than a traditional physician. And it’s no secret that preventative care can reduce the risk factors that lead to chronic diseases, slow their progression, and improve overall health.
Though the traditional concept of concierge medicine has been slandered for its tendencies towards the wealthy, its benefits are undeniable. This is an interesting time for industry leaders like Jordan Search Consultants who have closely followed the trend of physicians making the career transition to concierge medicine. While still a small slice of the physician workforce, concierge medicine is growing at a rate of about 5% to 6% annually across the United States, according to Medical Economics, with about 12,000 physicians now practicing some form of subscription- or retainer-based medicine. We’re excited to see how the trend develops and the improvements to population health it could bring.